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J&J, Texas Medical Center partner to accelerate design of breakthrough medical devices

by Lee Nelson, Contributing Reporter | October 24, 2016
Business Affairs Medical Devices
A new collaboration between Johnson & Johnson Innovation and the Texas Medical Center aims to bring together the minds and ideas of top scientists, engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs and technology leaders to generate breakthrough medical devices more quickly.

“We are trying to create stuff that there isn’t a need for yet because it doesn’t exist yet,” Dr. William Cohn told HCB News. “We will be creating lifesaving and life-enriching technology that doctors and nurses need for their patients, and we will do it quicker and more efficiently.”

Cohn, a renowned cardiac surgeon and medical device entrepreneur, was selected as the director of the new Center for Device Innovation at the Texas Medical Center (CDI @ TMC) in Houston. Cohn will be working with entrepreneurs and innovators outside of the center, too, besides being able to tap into all the resources available at the medical center — which has 106,000 employees and 8 million patient visits yearly.

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The CDI will open sometime in the third quarter of 2017. It will include multiple components that will accelerate the development of these new technologies from idea through commercialization. The building will include a new medical device engineering studio housed at the TMC Innovation Institute — which used to be the Nabisco cookie factory.

Cohn said they are calling it the “maker space,” and it will accommodate the research and development staff. It also will incorporate state-of-the-art equipment such as laser cutters, lathe, 3-D printer and scanner, and laser welder.

The center won’t be functioning fully until next year, but Cohn is already working on some projects at his home. Although Cohn is a cardiac surgeon, he said that 25 percent of the projects he has worked on aren’t related to the heart.

“I enjoy innovating in any field. You find like-minded people that understand a wide variety of fields in medicine,” he said.

The center has collaborative agreements creating access to the preclinical facilities of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Research Institute and Texas Heart Institute.

Cohn is hoping that in the next three to five years, the center will have devices invented, produced, tested and being used by health care professionals. In the first three years, he will hire about 20 employees to work on six to eight major initiatives simultaneously, with two to three people working full time on each invention.

“When it requires more people to work on it, we can decide if it will be kept here in the incubator or pass it on to the research and development teams at Johnson and Johnson,” he said. “This is a unique opportunity. I don’t think any big companies have done anything like this. We’ll come up with new breakthrough stuff that may or may not work, but we can try it over and over again until it does work, or we start on something else.”

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